Recently, the Global Business Travel Association, the world’s premier business travel and meetings trade organisation released their 2023 Business Travel Index Outlook. This trade association serves stakeholders across six continents as well as advocating for the $1.357 trillion global business travel and meetings industry.
Africa will still need to make a lot of effort to be represented in the top 15 markets for Total Business Travel Spending (BTS). To do so Africa needs strategies that will enhance its attractiveness as a continent for business travel, incubate economic growth and take full advantage of the potentials in the business tourism sector.
China topped the list for 2023 and it had a 39 percent annual growth. Next was the United States which had a 25 percent annual growth. Germany came third and had a 38 percent annual growth. The highest growth was in Japan which came fourth and had a 69 percent annual growth in business travel spending. The top 15 accounted for 34 percent of total business travel spending which was $1, 149, 250 million.
The report identified eight factors which determine and drive global business travel. These are: The level of general economic activity being the most paramount of the factors. To facilitate economic and business development larger countries with a widely displaced population will require more travel. Where a country has sectors for which travel by nature is intense, and these sectors are dominant, then there will be more travels. A country will be more prone to domestic travel where it is dominated by consumption.
Other factors relate to technology and the productivity of business travel, how far a country is from their markets or suppliers, the adequacy of transportation and hospitality infrastructure to be able to support business travel and environmental, tax, security, health and regulatory policy. Most economic drivers of business travel point to continued progress in the long recovery from the depths of the pandemic, says the report.
In 2022, the report states, $1.03 trillion was spent on business travel globally. This significantly exceeds a projection of $933 billion. Persistent inflation and the release of pent up demand contributed to this outcome. The fact that there was stability in the global economy despite expectations that many advanced economies were going to weaken was key to accelerating business travel recovery. Global business travel is expected to recover its pre-pandemic total of $1.4 trillion in 2024, and it is expected to grow to nearly $1.8 trillion by the end of 2027.
Some strategies that can promote and grow business travel spending in Africa will involve developing infrastructure, simplifying visa processes, enhancing air connectivity by establishing direct flights and expanding flight routes between key business hubs in Africa. Others relate to implementing business friendly policies and putting in place a conducive environment for investment and entrepreneurship.
Africa needs to showcase itself as a business friendly location, encourage networking and collaboration among African businesses and counterparts, developing and promoting world class business tourism facilities like conference centres, among others, and hosting international conferences, trade shows and industry – specific events that draw professionals from all around the world. This should be complemented with ensuring safety and security of business travellers while countries should not lose touch of collaboration with regional organisations such as the African Union and African Development Bank, among others.
There are still many economic, geopolitical and environmental challenges that Africa and the world needs to contend with. Examples are the cost of living crisis, capital outflows from emerging markets, war in Ukraine, Sudan and sudden changes of government, as well as impact of climate change. However Africa can by collaboration confront these challenges and reap from the global business travel market.